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Data sharing across biobanks: epistemic values, data mutability and data incommensurability

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Despite the centrality of epistemic issues in biobank knowledge generation, there is currently a lacuna in research addressing the epistemic assumptions of biobank science and data sharing. The article addresses this lacuna. Using the insights of philosophical and sociological analysis, we examine standardization and harmonization and central challenges biobank data-sharing faces. We defend two central epistemic values, namely “spatial and temporal translatability” and “epistemic adequacy” which foster effective biobank knowledge generation. The first refers to the way in which biobank data need to be re-usable and re-purposable by bioscience researchers who did not create them. Given the perennial issues of data mutability and incommensurability, we also propose “epistemic adequacy.” In uncovering the social and epistemic foundations of biobank science, we emphasize issues essential for achieving effective and transparent biobank practice and productive communication and engagement with the public about the nature, potential and limits of biobanks.
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Keywords: biobank data sharing; epistemic values; incommensurability

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Data 2 Knowledge Research Group, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK

Publication date: December 1, 2013

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